One of the most historic houses in Madisonville is a little white cottage that sits along the banks of the Tchefuncte River in the shadows of the contemporary mansions that have sprouted up around it. The small, one-story home, known as the Lighthouse Keeper’s Cottage, has come a long way since it was built alongside the Tchefuncte River Lighthouse in 1868.
“It has a historical significance that is unique to this town,” said Don Lynch, describing the lighthouse and cottage. Lynch is the director at the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Maritime Museum in Madisonville. He added, “It needs to be preserved. It’s history.”
The cottage was recently donated to the Maritime Museum in an effort to restore and preserve the historic home. Over the past 130 years, the cottage braced through hurricanes, floods and two relocations. All of which have paid a toll on the structure.
“It needs everything from roof to foundation, inside and out, but all of that costs money,” said Sandra Scalise Juneau, chairperson of the Friends of the Lighthouse Keeper’s Cottage. The group is a committee within the Maritime Museum that was recently formed to raise money for the cottage restoration project.
The Friends of the Lighthouse Keeper’s Cottage will kick off their fundraising efforts with the first annual Susan Thurston’s Tea from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. April 9 at the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Maritime Museum, 133 Mabel Drive,Madisonville.
“The primary goal of the tea is to raise awareness of the cottage, its historical significance and the things that need to be done for the cottage,” said Juneau.
The event includes a three-course traditional tea, food provided by area restaurants, harp music performed by the New Orleans Celtic Harp Ensemble, keynote speech by St. Tammany Parish president Pat Brister, and volunteers dressed in vintage dress. Attendees are encouraged to wear a hat.
The tea will honor Susan Thurston, the wife of the first Tchefuncte River Lighthouse keeper from 1838.
“It is going to be a lovely event, stepping back into time and celebrating our past,” said Juneau.
Tickets for the event cost $35 a person and can be purchased by phone at (985) 845-9200, email at firstname.lastname@example.org or online at lpbmm.org. All of the proceeds from the event will be donated to the restoration of the lighthouse keeper’s cottage.
“We are so gratified by the way this community has come together in adopting this effort as a focus for our community,” said Juneau.
Today, the historic cottage is on the grounds of the Maritime Museum and is open for public and private events. The cottage has become an educational resource where classes in the area can hear stories about the secluded life of a lighthouse keeper and learn about the historic Tchefuncte River Lighthouse.
“Our goal with the cottage is to continue to use it as an educational tool,” said Lynch. The museum is studying the possible restoration of the lighthouse, which is located on the riverbank.
The Friends of the Lighthouse Keeper’s Cottage hope to eventually raise enough money to return the cottage to its original state, down to the hard pine floors and antique furniture. “Our ultimate goal would be to open it up as part of the museum,” added Juneau.